NCCI to introduce industry recovery measures

By Confidente Reporter

NAMIBIA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) chief executive officer Charity Mwiya (CM) recently revealed in an exclusive with Confidente (CR) that the entity is engaging with Government and other stakeholders to explore and introduce measures that aim to assist enterprises recover and restore operations now that the situation is gradually normalising.

CR: It’s been a torrid year for business owing to Covid-19. How is the NCCI helping businesses find their feet?

CM: No enterprise, irrespective of size or the location from where that business operates has been spared the severe impact of the coronavirus and the consequent necessary national response taken by Government to mitigate health and safety risks through the lockdown measures put in place to avoid the spread of Covid-19. The measures included closure of borders and a national lockdown, which were gradually followed by phased easing of restrictions.

Representing the country’s business sector, the NCCI immediately set measures in place, inclusive of the establishment of a Help Desk to help, support, provide guidance and advice. I hasten to point out that the Help Desk was established to serve all businesses and not only members of NCCI.

Now that the situation is slowly but gradually normalising, the NCCI is engaging with Government and other critical stakeholders to explore and introduce measures that aim to assist enterprises recover and restore operations.

NCCI applauds Government for recently launching the Credit Guarantee Scheme and the commercial banks who have signed-up to support this long overdue initiative. The Chamber is also delighted that an SME loan facility is in place and will be disbursed through the Development Bank of Namibia (DBN).

In addition to the aforementioned, NCCI members and organisations such as the SMEs Compete are running, with the support of the German Development Service and local private sector players,the Pitching For Recovery (P4R) programme in all 14 regions of Namibia. We are delighted that over 100 entrepreneurs have already received grants that serve as a lifeline for struggling enterprises needing a helping hand to turn around their fortunes.

CR: Has government provided adequate assistance to private businesses in its stimulus economic recovery package?

CM: There is always room for improvement. When talking about stimulus package, we need to take a comprehensive view of the situation. Unlike in the past when public expenditure programmes were used to stimulate growth, this time around, the fiscal space is very tight. Notwithstanding, Government initiated a mixture of monetary and stimulus measures to minimise the impact of Covid-19. Whilst applauding these measures, including the Credit Guarantee Scheme whose objective is to make it easier for entrepreneurs to access funding in a security or collateral based lending environment and the private sector-led initiatives such as SMEs Compete’s P4R programme, we need to be more creative and expansive. This will help the economy regain equilibrium and place Namibia back on a growth trajectory.   

CR: What are the recovery prospects of businesses considering the negative growth expected by the central bank in this and the next financial year?

CM: Like in other countries in the region and elsewhere in the world,the performance of the local economy, will remain sluggish in the short term. However, by remaining focused and not allowing ourselves to be deterred as we come to grips with the anticipated catastrophic impacts of Covid-19, efforts will be rewarded, and the economic growth momentum will progressively gain traction and speed. We expect economic growth to remain in single digit for the next two years, but with lessons learnt and by making the business environment more friendly, we are confident will get to the desired seven percent plus in year three after the pandemic has receded.

CR: You have faced challenges in your capacity as CEO where factions that were in NCCI tried to oust you. How have you been able to address this issue?

CM: It is sad, actually worrisome that so much time and energy is spent on getting rid of the devastating effects of human egos. But I am not the sort of person that allows myself to be derailed or side-tracked when there is a job to be done, which is to ensure that the playing field is levelled for a private sector led economic growth and thereby create employment opportunities and to ensure that we serve our members well so that they can concentrate on what they do best.

CR: What vision do you hold for the chamber?

CM: Without fear or favour, I want to see that NCCI remains a reliable and dependable partner, business sector representative body to Government, labour, NGOs, including faith-based organisations and academia. Additionally, to intensify our working relationship with other business support organisations (BSOs) and representative bodies domestically, regionally and internationally.

CR: How do you now describe your relationship with branch chairpersons?

CM: I think we are making good progress. Initially, it was challenging with some branches but thankfully, we have forged more positive alignment and with a higher number of branches than on the negative side of the scale. Those branches that adopted a self-serving stance, have discovered that I am not the sort of person who embraced empire building, hidden agendas and selfishness.

CR: In your view, what needs to be done for Namibia to attract more business investments?

CM: Like grass grows from the roots, investment mobilisation starts with making the environment more conducive for locals to invest and finding ways to help entrepreneurs who are already in business to grow. In order to attract more investments in the local economy, we should scrap business unfriendly rules and regulations. The bureaucrats should also change their mindsets so that they become more facilitative and less obstructive to business proposals and inquiries.

We should also become more focused and strategic in our investment promotion and retention efforts, thereby becoming selective on the sort of foreign direct investment (FDI) we need as a nation. 

CR: What drives your success and passion for business and entrepreneurship?

CM: I do not like talking about myself. However, I am driven by the love for my country and a desire to contribute in a manner that will make young Namibians proud of my generation. I am a focused person and will never give-up on accomplishing a task until the job is done.

Also, waking up each day under a Grace that sustains me, knowing God is intimately involved in my daily activities to accomplish his purpose.

CR: Any final thoughts you wish to share?

CM: There is unfortunately an increased plethora of negative talk and sentiments amongst some Namibians which is regrettable. The Bible tells us that “as a man thinketh, so is he”. If we continue to perpetuate negative talk, it may become our reality. Let us endeavour to instil confidence as leaders in the way we see things and talk about them. Every challenge is actually an opportunity, only we must see that opportunity and turn it into reality. The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us many lessons, foremost that we must do things different and better moving forward. We cannot expect better results if we keep doing the same things in the same manner.

Thank you for the opportunity to present the NCCI’s perspectives and way forward as we rebuild our economy post Covid-19. It will require our collective resolve and unity to “build back better”.